The chief executive of Danske Bank, which bought National Irish Bank in 2004, has said it is changing strategy in Ireland to focus on wealthy and corporate customers.

'We are pulling back from traditional mass banking when it comes to branches,' Peter Straarup told the Reuters news agency. Danske, Denmark's biggest financial institution, has already closed half of National Irish Bank's branches.

'There is nothing attractive about having banks in Ireland at this time, but there will be a day after tomorrow,' Straarup said in the interview.

'The alternative for us is to get the bank's costs down to a level where we will be profitable once the crisis is over, and to do what we can to defend any outstanding claims the bank may have,' he said. 'I don't think we have any other choice, and I think this is the right choice.'

Straarup repeated that Danske Bank had no wish to sell National Irish Bank, nor try to expand further in the country through acquisitions.

The crisis in Ireland has weighed on Danske Bank's results in the form of high debt provisions, which are expected to continue in the future, Straarup said, adding that he hoped such provisions peaked in the second quarter of 2010.

He said he expected relatively low growth in Ireland and the rest of Europe for a long period ahead. 'We do not expect our business in Ireland to show any growth worth mentioning in the coming 12 months,' he said.